Founded 18 August 1974
Level on pyramid 1
Number of teams 20 (from 2014–15)
Relegation to Iraq Division One
Iraqi premier league al shorta vs najaf fc
The Iraqi Premier League (Arabic: دوري الممتاز العراقي, Dawri Al-Mumtaz) is the highest league in the league system of Iraqi football and currently contains the top 20 Iraqi football clubs. It was founded in 1974 and is controlled by the Iraq Football Association. The Iraqi Premier League is the top tier of an extensive pyramid-like structure, operating on a system of promotion and relegation with the Iraq Division One in which three teams get relegated and three teams get promoted each season.
- Iraqi premier league al shorta vs najaf fc
- Baghdads Big Four dominance
- Qualification for international competitions
- International performance
- Seasons in Iraqi Premier League
- Clubs for 201617 season
Seasons run from September to May with the 20 teams playing 38 matches each (playing each team in the league twice, home and away), totalling 380 matches in the season. It is currently sponsored by Fuchs and thus officially known as the Fuchs Premier League. The league was formed in 1974 when the Iraq Football Association (IFA) replaced the League of the Institutes (a league for institutes teams) with the Iraqi Premier League (the first nationwide league of clubs in Iraq).
Of the 73 teams to have competed since the inception of the league in 1974, 11 have won the title: Al-Zawraa (13), Al-Shorta (5), Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (5), Al-Talaba (5), Erbil (4), Al-Rasheed (3), Naft Al-Wasat (1), Duhok (1), Al-Jaish (1), Salahaddin (1) and Al-Minaa (1). The current champions are Al-Zawraa, who won the title in 2015–16.
The Iraq Football Association was founded in 1948, and soon after the foundation of the IFA, the first league was ever played in Iraq: the 1948–49 Iraq FA Championship. This was played in a group stage format and was won by Sharakat Nafat Al-Basra (Basra Petroleum Company). The Iraq FA Cup Championship was founded in 1956 and was originally played in a knockout format despite being considered the national championship. Its name was changed to the Iraq FA League Championship in 1963 after being changed to a league with a round-robin format. The introduction of this new league saw club football in Iraq become more popular and the teams involved become much bigger. During its 18 seasons of existence, Al-Shorta won five titles, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya won five titles, Amanat Baghdad won five titles, Al-Jaish won one title, Al-Athori won one title and one season was abandoned midway through. Due to the league containing many institutes teams as opposed to football clubs, the league was commonly known as the League of the Institutes.
After the success of the 1973–74 season which included teams from all around Iraq, the IFA made a decision that changed the course of Iraqi club football forever. During an historic meeting on 18 August 1974, the IFA decided to abandon the League of the Institutes and replace it with a nationwide league of clubs: the Iraqi National League, as it was known then. This decision was met with strong opposition, particularly from institutions such as the Police Games Directorate (PGD), who controlled the Al-Shorta club. As a result, the PGD sent a weak Al-Shorta team, full of unknown faces, to participate in the first ever Iraqi Premier League season. However, after suffering 3–0 and 11–0 defeats in their opening two games, the IFA and the PGD held talks and it was decided that all players from the side would be released, and replaced by players who had previously been representing Al-Shorta in the League of the Institutes era, and the club returned to being a powerhouse of Iraqi club football.
The league held its first season in 1974–75 and was originally composed of ten clubs. The first ever Iraqi Premier League goal was scored by Falah Hassan of Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya in a 1–1 draw with Al-Sinaa. The ten inaugural members of the new league were Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, Al-Shorta, Al-Naqil, Al-Samawa, Al-Jaish, Babil, Amanat Baghdad, Al-Rafidain, Al-Sinaa and Al-Minaa, and the league was won by Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya.
The format of the Iraqi Premier League has changed multiple times throughout its existence. The first time that the Iraqi Premier League was not held in the normal league format was when it was split into four regional groups in the 1988–89 season, which were followed by another group stage, semi-finals, a third place match and a final. During this season, if a match ended in a draw, it would go to extra time and then penalties if necessary. A team would earn three points if they won a game by two goals or more (after normal or extra time). They would earn two points if they won a game by just one goal (after normal or extra time), and they would gain one point for winning a penalty shootout. Al-Rasheed won the league this season by beating Al-Talaba on penalties in the final.
In the 1986–87 season, each team played each other four times in a quadruple round-robin format; this is the only time that this has happened in the league's history. The 1992–93 Iraqi National League saw each team play a huge 69 games as each team played each other three times, meaning that a total of 828 games were played in that season. Each player was only allowed to play 46 games in the season. In the 1994–95 season, three points were awarded to a winning team, but four points were awarded to a team that won a game by three goals or more in order to encourage attacking football. Al-Zawraa won the league that year, finishing 13 points ahead of second place; each team played 46 games that season.
Two seasons have had to be abandoned midway through without a winner being declared. These seasons are the 1984–85 and 2003–04 seasons. The 1984–85 season was abandoned due to Iraq's World Cup qualifying campaign, whilst the 2003–04 season was abandoned due to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. A winner could not be declared in either season as the halfway point of the season had not been reached yet in both cases.
Meanwhile, three other seasons have also not been completed, but winners were still declared. These are the 1976–77, 2002–03 and 2013–14 seasons. In both the 1976–77 and 2002–03 seasons, the IFA decided to abandon the second half of the league and crowned whoever was top of the league at the halfway stage as champions in both cases, meaning that Al-Zawraa were crowned champions of the 1976–77 season and Al-Shorta were crowned champions of the 2002–03 season. The 2013–14 season was not completed either, due to the war situation in the country at the time, but more than two-thirds of the matches had been played. The IFA decided to 'end the league at its current stage' rather than abandoning the league altogether, crowning Al-Shorta as champions for the fifth time as they were top of the league at its premature end.
The league had been played in the normal league format from 1989 until 2003, but after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the IFA decided to change the league system into a system consisting of group stages. The group stage system remained in place from 2003–04 up until 2010–11, and the normal league system returned in the 2011–12 season; it lasted for three seasons until the group stage format returned from the 2014–15 campaign. But, the normal league format was once again reintroduced in 2016–17.
In the 1980–81 season, Al-Shorta managed to defeat Al-Zawraa 3–0 in their final match, which was exactly the result they needed in order retain their title and be crowned champions for the second time. They finished the season on equal points and equal goal difference with Al-Talaba but more goals scored and therefore expected to be given the trophy. However, the Iraqi FA did not officially announce who the champion was until the next day when they announced that Al-Talaba were the champions due to having won more matches than Al-Shorta. This rule had never been used before and was never used again, and the decision astonished everybody. Many Al-Shorta fans claimed there was a conspiracy against their club.
In the 1982–83 season, the two half-brothers of Saddam Hussein (Barzan Ibrahim and Watban Ibrahim) took control of the Salahaddin club, who had never won the league or cup in its history at that point. They became title challengers that season and the Ibrahims were accused of using their influence to intimidate opposition teams and cause referees to make deliberately incorrect decisions which favoured Salahaddin, such as when they were awarded a goal against Al-Shorta despite the ball not crossing the line which allowed them to win 1–0. Salahaddin needed to draw their final match of the season in order to win the league title, so the match was moved to their home in Tikrit rather than being played in Baghdad as scheduled. Salahaddin's opponents had two goals disallowed by the referee that game. They finished the season as champions without a single loss in the league.
The following season, it is believed that Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, instructed the president of the Iraqi FA to ensure that Al-Jaish (Army Club) would win their first league title, in order to boost the morale of the Iraqi Army. Players were reportedly blackmailed into joining Al-Jaish in order to increase the quality of the team. If Al-Jaish were losing at 90 minutes, referees would add on significant amounts of stoppage time to allow them to tie the game. In the final game of the season, their opponents were given two red cards which allowed Al-Jaish to win the match and therefore win the title. They also finished the season without a single loss in the league.
After this season, Uday Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein, established a new club called Al-Rasheed and placed them straight into the second division and they were promoted to the top division in their first season. Uday forced nearly every single player from the national team into Al-Rasheed (against their will), with the exception of a few such as Raad Hammoudi and Hussein Saeed, leading to Al-Rasheed dominating Iraqi football in the late 1980s. They won three consecutive league titles in 1986–87, 1987–88 and 1988–89.
In the 1991–92 season, Al-Zawraa played against Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya on the last day of the season. If Al-Zawraa won or drew the match, they would be champions, but if Jawiya won then they would be champions. Jawiya took an early 1–0 lead, but Al-Zawraa managed to get an equaliser in the second half. However, the linesman disallowed the goal due to offside, but this was clearly the incorrect decision. Jawiya won 1–0 and were crowned champions, meaning that incorrect decision deprived Al-Zawraa of the league title.
The 1997–98 season saw one of the most exciting ends to a title race in history. Al-Shorta needed a win against Al-Sulaikh in order to be crowned champions, otherwise Jawiya would win the league. Al-Shorta were losing 2–1 with six minutes remaining. In the 84th minute they managed to get an equaliser through Mafeed Assem's goal, with the referee deeming that the ball had crossed the line despite the goalkeeper managing to parry it away. In what was a similar situation to that of the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final, the lack of a camera on the goalline meant that nobody could tell if the referee got the decision right, although the fact the Al-Sulaikh players barely protested would suggest that the referee was actually correct. Then, in the third minute of stoppage time, the referee awarded Al-Shorta a penalty, which they scored, and therefore they won the league.
"Baghdad's Big Four" dominance
Ever since the Iraqi Premier League began, it has been dominated by the four biggest clubs in Baghdad: Al-Shorta, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, Al-Zawraa and Al-Talaba.
Of the four teams, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya have earned more top-four finishes (31) than any other side over the 40 completed seasons, meanwhile Al-Zawraa have won the league title 13 times, far more than any of the other sides, and Al-Shorta have retained the league more recently than any of the other three teams having been crowned champions in both the 2012–13 and 2013–14 seasons.
From the 1989–90 season until the 2005–06 season, the league was won by one of the four Baghdad teams every single time and this was the greatest period of dominance that the four clubs enjoyed. Even before and after this period, the league title was usually won by one the clubs.
After the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, players started to leave the Baghdad-based clubs and join clubs in the North such as Erbil and Duhok in order to escape the danger of the capital city. This led to a shift in the structure of the "Big Four" and Erbil won the league three times in a row between 2007 and 2009 with Duhok winning the league in 2010. In the 2008–09 season, none of Baghdad's Big Four clubs finished in the top four and this is the only time that this has ever happened in the history of the league; the top four spots were occupied by Erbil, Al-Najaf, Duhok and Amanat Baghdad.
In total, Baghdad's Big Four clubs have won 28 of the 40 Iraqi Premier League titles in history.
There are 20 clubs in the Iraqi Premier League. During the course of a season (from September to May) each club plays the others twice (a double round-robin system), once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents, for a total of 38 games (however, all matches between Baghdad's Big Four clubs are played at the neutral venue of Al-Shaab Stadium to accommodate more spectators at the big games). Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, then goal difference, and then goals scored. If still equal, teams are deemed to occupy the same position. If there is a tie for the championship, for relegation, or for qualification to other competitions, a play-off match at a neutral venue decides rank. The two lowest placed teams are relegated into the Iraq Division One, and the top two teams from the Iraq Division One are promoted in their place. Each club is allowed a maximum of three foreign players in their squad. The winners of the league qualify for the Iraqi Super Cup, a match played against the winners of the Iraq FA Cup (if the league winners also win the Iraq FA Cup, they play the league runners-up instead).
Qualification for international competitions
The winners of the Iraqi Premier League are admitted into the AFC Cup (along with the winners of the Iraq FA Cup). The runners-up of the league are admitted into the Arab Club Championship.
Collectively, Iraqi clubs have reached eleven finals of major continental club competitions, and have won five of them. Al-Shorta were the first team to reach a final when they reached the AFC Champions League final in 1971, but they withdrew from the final against Maccabi Tel-Aviv for political reasons, therefore being handed an automatic 2–0 defeat. Eleven years later, Al-Shorta won the 1980–82 Arab Club Championship by defeating Al-Nejmeh 4–2 on aggregate in the final.
Meanwhile, Al-Rasheed won the Arab Club Championship three times in a row in 1985, 1986 and 1987. Al-Rasheed also became the second Iraqi team to reach the final of the AFC Champions League in 1989 but they lost a two-legged final on away goals to Al-Saad of Qatar.
Al-Talaba reached the final of the 1995 Asian Cup Winners' Cup but they lost it 2–1 to Bellmare Hiratsuka, and five years later, Al-Zawraa lost the final of the same competition 1–0 to Shimizu S-Pulse in 2000. Erbil reached the final of the AFC Cup twice, in 2012 and 2014 but lost both times (to Al-Kuwait and Al-Qadsia respectively), but Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya became the third Iraqi team to win a major continental club competition when they edged past Indian club Bengaluru FC 1–0 in the 2016 AFC Cup Final.
The Iraqi Premier League has been sponsored by two different companies: Asia Cell and Fuchs Petrolub.
Seasons in Iraqi Premier League
73 teams have taken part in the Iraqi Premier League since its first season in 1974–75 up until the 2016–17 season. The teams in bold are competing in the Iraqi Premier League in the 2016–17 season. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and Al-Shorta are the only teams to have played in every single one of the 43 Iraqi Premier League seasons.
Clubs for 2016–17 season
The following 19 clubs are competing in the Iraqi Premier League during the 2016–17 season (Erbil withdrew from the competition).
a: Founding member of the Iraqi Premier League
b: Never been relegated from the Iraqi Premier League